11 Ways to Make Over Your Presentation Design

(This post originally appeared on Visage.)

Presentations often receive a bad rap—for good reason. We’ve all sat through those long-winded speeches and hot mess PowerPoints, which completely undermine the point of visual presentations.

So, what differentiates a good presentation from a poor one? Content and design. While your speech may be perfect, the images you show can greatly add or detract from your message. Whether you’re using PowerPoint, Keynote or good old PDFs, these 11 tips will help you create well-designed presentation slides that effectively get your point across.

1) Skip the Stock Template

powerpoint_good_bad10

Using the slide themes included in your software is presentation death. They’re overused, boring and usually pretty ugly. Create cleaner presentations by starting with a clean presentation and building from there.

2) Don’t Use More than 6 Lines of Text

powerpoint_good_bad

Packing too much information into a slide will completely undermine its purpose. Remember: The audience often has to process everything you say while they view the slide.

3) Ditch the Bullet Points

powerpoint_good_bad2

Too many presentations are bullet point crazy. No one will remember 10 bullet points, but they will remember 10 compelling slides. Use each slide to build your case and incrementally tell your story. (Consider your slides to be an outline for what you’re saying.) Try to share one idea per slide.

4) Use Sans Serif Fonts

powerpoint_good_bad3

With typography, go for legibility over fun. While you can use a creative font for a slide title, avoid using it for body text. Instead, stick to clean, traditional typefaces like Helvetica. And if you’re using a dark background, make the text bold for readability.

5) Size Fonts Appropriately

powerpoint_good_bad4

Chances are you’re designing your presentation on a laptop—and that’s a much different size than the final presentation screen. When sizing your fonts, keep in mind that the text should be large enough to be read by the person in the back of the room.

6) Maintain a Strong Contrast Between Text and Background

powerpoint_good_bad5

In order for your message to pop, you need a high level of contrast between your text and the background. If your background image features a lot of variation, portions of your text may not be legible. In that case, a stylish bar of color behind the image can bring the legibility back while adding visual interest.

7) Use No More than 5 Colors

powerpoint_good_bad6

A harmonious palette can easily enhance the look of your entire presentation. No need for complex gradients or textures here; you can get excellent results with just the right colors. Use a tool like Adobe’s Kuler or a site like COLOURLovers to choose a good selection.

8) Use Contrasting Text Colors to Draw Attention

powerpoint_good_bad7

It’s like bold and italic, but better. Use a single color in your selected palette to emphasize important points in your text. However, make sure not to overdo it.

9) Use Single Images

powerpoint_good_bad8

Images help make your presentation more visual, but don’t get carried away with too many on one slide. It’s a presentation, not a photo album. Limit your designs to a single image with simple or no text.

10) Use Visuals to Increase Emotional Appeal

Presentation Design 10

Visuals are there to help support your message; they can enhance comprehension, retention and elicit an emotional response that increases impact. Use powerful visuals to get your point across.

11) Freeze the Transitions

There are plenty of clever transitions built into today’s presentation software, but most quality presentations eschew any distracting transitions.

No matter what your presentation content, make sure you are always using design to your full advantage.

Need help with your presentation design? Let’s chat.

Everything You Need to Know About Visual Content